Haiku on September 11

I read Robert’s posts about haiku here and here, as well as Michael Dylan Welch’s comments, with great interest. I’ve tried haiku in the past, knew I failed, and have also felt “fearful” about trying again. I’m intrigued by everything that goes into writing a true haiku, including saying more with less.


In e-mailing back and forth about an article for the 2009 Poet’s Market, Michael and I discussed this fear a bit. I promised Michael I would seriously attempt haiku and post a few here at Poetic Asides.


I realized there was no more challenging subject about which to say more with less than the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I experienced September 11, 2001 in a very peripheral way–literally. That morning my mother and I were in Gettysburg, having spent the night en route to a few days in Amish country. We were actually blissfully unaware of the attacks as we searched for Marianne Moore’s grave in Evergreen Cemetery and contemplated the beautiful, peaceful scene in the Valley of Death from Little Round Top.


It wasn’t until we stopped at an antique mall halfway to York that we first heard what had happened. In shock, we immediately started back to Ohio. With Washington so close to the south, there was a special urgency in the radio reports we were listening to. In one of the rest stations on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we overheard plenty of discussion of the New York part of the tragedy, as people wandered with cell phones to their ears, absorbed in agitated conversations, their eyes wide with fear and confusion.


And, as we sped through Somerset County within miles of Shanksville, we passed emergency equipment heading east, lights flashing, although Flight 93 had gone down hours before.


In 2002, on our way home from the Dodge Poetry Festival, we made a detour off the turnpike to visit the Flight 93 memorial. It was only a year and week later; a mood of requiem was still strong–at the festival, in the small towns of New Jersey, and in Pennsylvania.


It’s definitely a challenge to distill all that into captured moments; to forego the emotions, the intensity of the memories, the politics, the impulse to comment at length and memorialize. But I said I’d try, so here they are–my haiku for September 11 (attempted):


bone-white stones

the poet’s grave eludes us

crow and dried roses




clear September day

a blue sky to remember

leaves papers ash drift




soft yellow showers

faint whiffs of distant smoke

crickets on stone walls




stillness on Round Top

in the cannon’s muzzle

a spider’s web




cows and goldenrod

a siren on the turnpike

milking time is soon




field in late summer

tributes on a chain-link fence

grass conceals the scars




P.S. Here’s a moving piece about an artist’s musical response to 9/11.

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One thought on “Haiku on September 11

  1. sandra.wirfel@papitt.ang.af.mil

    How refreshing to now that you drove through my wonderful state of Pa, through Somerset County which is just south of Cambria COunty and home.

    Anyhow that’s not the point. My goal for 2007 was a haiku a day for a total of 365 at the end of the year. I am happy to proclaim that when I hand compiled all my haiku I had exceeded my goal, I ended up with 434 haiku, and I am sure there are still some floating around on napkins and small pieces of paper that got destroyed in the washing machine.

    For 2008 my goal is a sonnet a week. Please post information about sonnets.